Lord Dunmore's War - 1774


Lord Dunmore's War plaque in Gallipolis,Ohio (reverse side)
Lord Dunmore's War was the name given to a series of bloody hostilities in 1774 between the colonists of Virginia and the Shawnee and Mingo Indians. The area south of the Ohio River had long been claimed by the Iroquois, the most powerful Indian nation in the Northern Colonies, but other tribes also made claims to the area and often hunted the region. The colonists began exploring and settling the lands south of the Ohio River (now WV and KY) after the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix with the Iroquois, but Ohio Indians who hunted the land refused to sign the treaty and prepared to defend their hunting rights. At the forefront of the resistance were the Shawnee.

Daniel Boone and a Mingo Indian (re-enactment; not a period photograph)
In September 1773, a then-obscure hunter named Daniel Boone led a group of about 50 emigrants in the first attempt by British colonists to establish a settlement in Kentucky County,VA (KY). On October 9, 1773, Boone's oldest son James and a small group of men and boys who were retrieving supplies were attacked by a band of Delawares, Shawnees, and Cherokees. They had decided "to send a message of their opposition to settlement." James Boone and another boy were captured and tortured to death. The brutality of the killings shocked the settlers along the frontier, and Boone's party abandoned their expedition. The deaths among Boone's party were among the first events in Dunmore's War. For the next several years, Indian nations opposed to the treaty continued to attack settlers, ritually mutilated and tortured to death the surviving men, and took the women and children into slavery.

History, always written by the victors, is not unbiased. While many accounts of the Lord Dunmore's War downplay it, there were plenty of hostilities of the Whites against the Indians. What undisputedly led to the War was the "Yellow Creek Massacre" on April 30, 1774. A group of Virginia frontiersmen murdered a dozen Mingoes, many relatives of the previously-friendly John James Logan (~1725-1780) (Iroquois/Mingo), including women and children. Some accounts claim there were nearby Indian warriors painted for battle; some don't. Although influential tribal chiefs in the region, such as Cornstalk (Shawnee), White Eyes (Lenape), and Guyasuta (Seneca/Mingo), attempted to negotiate a peaceful resolution lest the incident develop into a larger war, several parties of mixed Mingo and Shawnee warriors soon struck the frontier, killing and taking captives. By most accounts Logan personally "took the scalps of more than 30 colonists."

Lord Dunmore, (1732-1809), the last royal governor of the Colony of Virginia
The Virginia colonists duly responded. In May, 1774, John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore ("Lord Dunmore"), then royal Governor of Virginia, asked the House of Burgesses to declare a state of war with the hostile Indian nations, the Mingoes and the Shawnees. War was declared "to pacify the hostile Indian war bands". On June 10, 1774, Lord Dunmore called out the militia of southwest Virginia under the command of Colonel Andrew Lewis. On July 10, 1774* Governor Dunmore departed for the Ohio Valley, reaching it in early October. In August the militia of Frederick County under Major Angus McDonald raided the Indian towns on the Muskingum River.

Dunmore's warplan was simple. Three regiments were to be raised west of the Blue Ridge, one to be commanded by Colonel Andrew Lewis, while two other regiments from the interior were to be commanded by Dunmore himself. The force under Lewis, 1100 strong, proceeded from Camp Union (Lewisburg,WV) to the headwaters of the Kanawha, and then downriver to the appointed rendezvous, reaching the river's mouth on October 6, while Dunmore traveled to Fort Pitt and proceeded with his forces down the Ohio River. Not finding Dunmore there, Lewis sent messengers up the Ohio to meet him and tell him of the arrival. On October 9 Dunmore sent a dispatch announcing his plans to proceed to the Shawnee towns on the Scioto. He ordered Lewis to cross the Ohio and meet him at the Shawnee towns.

Battle of Point Pleasant plaque in Point Pleasant, Mason county, WV (also plaques for Chief Cornstalk, Chief Logan, and Colonel Lewis)
On the morning of October 10, before Lewis began crossing the Ohio, he and his 1,100 men were surprised when about 1100 warriors under Chief Cornstalk (not including Logan) attacked them. The Battle of Point Pleasant, as it came to be called, raged nearly all day and descended into hand-to-hand combat. Despite heavy losses, Lewis' army emerged victorious, and the Indians retreated across the Ohio.

Dunmore and Lewis advanced from their respective points into Ohio towards the Shawnee towns on the Scioto, where they erected the temporary Camp Charlotte on Sippo Creek -- John Houseman served under Captain Daniel Morgan here; this Frederick county, VA company served for 164 days, including time at Camp Charlotte; it is unknown if they also served in the Battle of Point Pleasant. Dunmore, perhaps with Lewis, met with Cornstalk to begin peace negotiations. According to tradition, Chief Logan refused to attend the negotiations, although some accounts say he promised to cease fighting. Under the October 19, 1774* Treaty of Camp Charlotte terms, the Indians lost the right to hunt in the area and agreed to recognize the Ohio River as the boundary between Indian lands and the British colonies, ending Lord Dunmore's War. By legend, Logan feared that the treaty would not be honored by the indians and reputedly gave an impassioned speech of vengeance that would become famous, "Logan's Lament:"

Statue of John James Logan (Tahgahjute) in Logan,WV
Monument in Pickaway county,OH with text of Logan's Lament
"I appeal to any white man to say, if ever he entered Logan's cabin hungry, and he gave him not meat; if ever he came cold and naked, and he clothed him not. During the course of the last long and bloody war, Logan remained idle in his cabin, an advocate for peace. Such was my love for the whites, that my countrymen pointed as they passed, and said, Logan is the friend of the white men. I have even thought to live with you but for the injuries of one man. Col. Cresap, the last spring, in cold blood, and unprovoked, murdered all the relations of Logan, not sparing even my women and children. There runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any living creature. This has called on me for revenge. I have sought it: I have killed many: I have fully glutted my vengeance. For my country, I rejoice at the beams of peace. But do not harbour a thought that mine is the joy of fear. Logan never felt fear. He will not turn on his heel to save his life. Who is there to mourn for Logan? Not one." This speech, the authenticity of which is widely debated, was printed in colonial newspapers, and in 1782 Thomas Jefferson reprinted it in his book "Notes on the State of Virginia."

After the Mingo refused to accept the terms of the treaty, Major William Crawford attacked their village of Seekunk (Salt Lick Town). His force of 240 men destroyed the village

The battle of Point Pleasant has been called the most extensive and the most bitterly contested Indian battle in American history, and with the most potent results. At the time it occurred it aroused world-wide interest; English, French and German newspapers published extensive articles descriptive of the battle.

Upon his return to Virginia, Lord Dunmore received praise by the colonists and the Assembly for his success of the War and the the execution of a treaty with the Indians. He at once ardently espoused the cause of the King, was one of his most influential and obstinate adherents in the colonies, and spent the remainder of his brief stay in this country in the vain effort to resist the consummation of American independence. The British continued to follow a policy of limiting western expansion of the colonies, while guaranteeing the Indians peace in their homes. Lord Dunmore’s War, like the earlier French and Indian War, only strengthened the British in their resolve to keep the peace at the price of stifling the western expansion by the colonial settlers.

But the colonists were unhappy with more than the British policy of Western expansion. Lord Dunmore had been trying hard to limit the Virginians' ability to govern themselves for over a year. In both 1773 and 1774, the governor disbanded the Virginia legislature, the House of Burgesses, for supporting persons opposed to the Mother Country. He surely would have found it enticing to get rid of the military capabilities of the oppositionists.

Andrew Lewis, who refused to take another order from Dunmore from the date of the Battle of Point Pleasant, reported to General Washington about the fact that Lewis and his men were attacked there at the place where Lord Dunmore had told them to meet him and his wing. Dunmore was charged with inciting the Indian war and arranging the campaign so as to carry out his political plans. It was charged that he arranged the expedition so as to have the force under Lewis annihilated by the Indians, and thereby weaken the physical strength and break down the spirits of the Virginians, for they were defying royal power.

November 1775 - the world's first emancipation proclamation
In 1775 all Virginians came to despise Dunmore. In March, angry over the Virginia Convention, Dunmore attempted to incite an insurrection among the slaves. In April he seized the store of gunpowder from Williamsburg; Patrick Henry gathered a corps of volunteers and marched to the capital (Williamsburg,VA), causing the governor to pay for the powder. That fall, Dunmore and co-conspirators were caught planning to incite the Indians against the Virginia frontiersmen. In November he proclaimed freedom to all slaves who should take up arms against the "rebels" (at right), and declared martial law throughout Virginia; emancipation was successful in that he augmented his depleted force from 300 to 1100. He sent marauding parties against the Whigs, and began to lay waste to the Virignia countryside. The Virginians quickly organized militias for defense, and repulsed Dunmore at Great Bridge,VA on December 9. He withdrew to his ships at Norfolk, and when the town would not furnish supplies to him, cannonaded the town and set it on fire. Ironically, just 14 months after supposedly being allies in the Lord Dunmore War, it was General Andrew Lewis and his Virginia militia who attacked Dunmore, decimating his navy; Dunmore escaped and joined the naval forces in NY, soon after returning to England. Obviously he had the distinction of being the last royal governor of Virginia.

The hostilities with the Indians had not ended; the Indians played an important role in the American Revolution on the Western front. Dissention within the Indian nations over the 1774 treaty emboldened the Indians, specifically the Shawnee and the Cherokee, and they declared war against the Virginia colonists in May, 1776. In the Western colonies, the Revolutionary battles continued to be marked by Indian-Colonist hostilities. Theordore Roosevelt said the Lord Dunmore War "was of the greatest advantage to the American cause; for it kept the northwestern Indians off our hands for the first two years of the Revolutionary struggle."

Did the Revolution begin nine months before the Declaration of Independance?

Another battle has been waged over the past century as to whether or not Lord Dunmore's War should be considered the first battle of the American Revolution. Although there are various claims that Congress so proclaimed it in 1906-1908, Bill #160 ("A Bill to aid in the erection of a monument or memorial at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, to commemorate the battle of the Revolution fought at that point between the colonial troops and Indians October tenth, seventeen hundred and seventy-four") passed the Senate on Feb 21, 1908 but never passed the House. While it was not enacted, the passage by the Senate lends support to the claims.

At first blush, it seems obvious that the battle was Colonists versus Indians, and not rebels against the British. Also, the Virginia militiamen thought of themselves as Colonists, not rebels; the declaration of indepence had not yet been written; there was no United Colonies of America. So how could this possibly be thought of as part of the Revolution?

Looking deeper, there is a case that can and has been made. Even the DAR supported it for a while. By force of arms, the Virginia Militia defeated the British expansion of Canada south to the Ohio River. The key is the importance of the Quebec Act -- If Point Pleasant had been a British victory in a war against the Iroquois Confederation, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan would be Canadian, consistent with the Quebec Act. In fact, Point Pleasant was a Virginia victory which displaced British authority from the Ohio Valley. Point Pleasant preserved Virginia sovereignty over present day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and lands west. However, it still remains that when the battle started, Lewis and his Virginia Militia believed it was a war of Colonists versus Indians. It was only afterwards, when Dunmore had not come to his aid, and when further Dunmore had even aided the Indians, that Lewis understood it to be a war of Rebels versus Indians plus British. In addition, there still remains an important difference between this battle and all other battles of the Revolution -- in the Battle of Point Pleasant, there were no British fighting on the battlefield; the battlefield itself was solely Virignia militiamen versus Indians.

That Dunmore was duplicitous and aided the Indians seems uncontrovertible, although the Canadian websites I visited mention none of it. Dunmore's actions in the following year, 1775 would further bear this out. Lewis came to this conclusion on the day of the Battle, and refused to take any further orders from Dunmore, and informed General Washington. The full extent of Dunmore's traitorous actions include:

Historians are undivided on the importance of the victory to the fledgling country. Some historians hold that Point Pleasant defined the course of the Revolutionary War. If Shawnee-Mingo remnants of the Algonquin Confederation had destroyed the Virginia Militia at their remote encampment, what militia may have expelled Lord Dunmore and the British Army from Virginia? Keeping Virginia from falling under strict British control preserved lines of control and communication for the colonies, and forced the British in subsequent years to get reinforcements from Quebec "through the wilderness of Saratoga" rather than the established roads from Alexandria,VA. Perhaps George Washington would not even have accepted the job to command all the troops in the north, but elected to stay in Virginia to protect his ancestral home, Mt. Vernon. Furthermore, Point Pleasant quieted the Indian threat for several years so the Revolution could concentrate on fighting the British only, on non-Western fronts only. Ultimately, without Lord Dunmore’s War, the United States of America would have found its western boundary to have been located along the Alleghany Mountains, with Kentucky and the Old Northwest Territory having remained British Indian Territory.

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References: Wikipedia, Daniel Boone Trail, Ohio History Central, OhioGenealogy.org
* Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia (extracted from theorginal court records of Augusta county,1745-1800),pp133-4
(1) Colonial Williamsburg Historical Almanack; Dateline--Cultural &Political Chronology (1750-1783).
July 10, 1774. Governor Dunmore of Va departs for the Ohio Valley in anexpedition against the Shawnees, beginning Dunmore's War. He reaches the Ohio River with about 1,300 men in early October.
October 10, 1774, Colonel Andrew Lewis defeats the Shawnees under ChiefCornstalk at the Battle of Point Pleasant (now in Mason County, WV).
October 19, 1774. The Treaty of Camp Charlotte, in which Chief Cornstalk recognizes VA's claims to the upper Ohio River valley, is signed,ending Dunmore's War.
(2) Bock struck, Virginia's Colonial Soldiers, PP. 137,141:
Dunmore's War 1774
After John Connally, the agent of John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, Royal Governor of Virginia, took possession of Fort Pitt, he named it Fort Dunmore early in 1774. He attempted retaliation for the Indian outrages and on 10 June the Governor called out the militia of southwest Virginia under the command of Gen. Andrew Lewis. In August the militia o fFrederick County under Maj. Angus McDonald raided the Indian towns on the Muskingum River. Lord Dunmore came to the frontier and called on the neighboring militia to join in the expedition against the hostiles. Before his forces could join those of Gen. Lewis, the Indians attacked the latter on 10 October. The Indians were soundly defeated at the battle of Point Pleasant.

John Houseman (1755-1818) was a soldier in 1774 for Lord Dunsmore's Expedition under Capt. Daniel Morgan; it specifies that this company was Camp Charlotte in October 1774. The Captain was paid £82 for 164 days, and was based out of Frederick county,VA. There have been no records found for Revolutionary War service in 1775-1781. John Howsmon did not marry Martha Frost until 1782; it is assumed he did have service as a Patriot, but there are no family stories handed down, and he was reputed to be a Quaker.

Mary Frost had six brothers who would have been of age to fight in Lord Dunmore's War or the Revolution: William Jr (born ~1739), John (~1743), Thomas (~1745), Isaac (~1746), Abraham (~1749) and Jacob (~1753). There is documentation that Ens. William Frost, Sgt. Thomas Frost and Isaac Frost (along with brother-in-law Abraham Lindsey) were on Sgt. Sigismund Stribling's roll (NAMES OF THE SOLDIERS ON THE PAYROLLS AT ROMNEY AND WINCHESTER) in the Lord Dunmore War. Brother Isaac died in the War: Sigismund Stribbling, aged 63, deposes in Winchester, 5th June, 1810 -- "Isaac Frost was out with deponent in Dunmore's Expedition in 1774, and died in fall of that year coming home. William Frost was with him." There is also documentation that brother William Frost saw Revolutionary War duty (VIRGINIA MILITIA IN REVOLUTIONARY WAR, P 204) -- William Frost, Capt. R, August 4, 1779. No records have been found for service by her other brothers in the Revolution.

Further research: look up patriot pension applications for Daniel Morgan and Sigismund Stribling, and the other men in their units, to see if there is additional information on the service of these units during Dunmore Expedition.

Dunmore's War Rosters: But few of the rolls of Companies which participated in the battle of Point Pleasant, or which arrived on the field that evening with Colonel William Christian, are known to be in existence. Far the greater number have been lost in the shades of oblivion. It is possible that some others, in addition to those we now have, may yet be found, among the musty and dusty documents of public record offices and libraries; but this is not probable. There were eleven companies in the Augusta Regiment, under Colonel Charles Lewis; eight companies in the Botetourt Regiment, under Colonel William Fleming; and seven companies in the Fincastle Battalion, under Colonel William Christian. In addition thereto, there was one company of Minute Men from Culpeper county, under Colonel John Field, ( acting Captain); a company of Volunteers from Dunmore (now Shenandoah) county, commanded by Captain Thomas Slaughter; a company of Riflemen from Bedford county, at the head of which was Captain Thomas Buford; and a company of Kentucky Pioneers, led on by Captain James Harrod. Of the rolls of these companies- thirty in numbers-only the following eleven are known to exist. We print them by permission of the copyright proprietors, the originals being in the library of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. The rosters for the following companies contain 531 names; even adding in the names of the captains of the 19 companies whose names are known but for whom there are no rosters, there is a total of 550 men -- it is thought that there were 1100 men in the Southern Division, the left wing of Dunmore's Army, commanded by Colonel Lewis:

Captain William Nalle's Company, John Murray's Company Of Volunteers, Captain Philip Love's Company Of Volunteers, Captain John Lewis Company Of Volunteers, John Stewart's Company Of Greenbrier Valley, Captain Robert McClennahan's Company Of Greenbrier Valley Volunteers, Pauling's Company Of Volunteers, Captain Evan Shelby's Company Of Volunteers, Captain William Campbell's Company, Captain James Harrod's Company Of Kentucky Pioneers, Captain Thomas Bedford's Company Of Bedford County Rifle Company

Note - The "Documentary History of Dunmore's War" is the chief and by far the most reliable source from which to obtain rosters of the companies engaged in the battle of Point Pleasant, and we print there-from all of those which participated in that struggle. In addition to these, that work contains rolls or lists of men engaged in defending the frontier in 1774. These included the companies of (not one of these organizations was in the battle of Point Pleasant, as is shown by the regimental and battalion organizations):

Captain Daniel Smith's Company, Robert Doack's Company of Militia, Men in Michael Woods' Muster District, Men in Thomas Burk's Muster District, Garrisons at Elk Garden Fort, Garrisons at the Glade Hollow Fort, Garrisons at the Maiden Springs Station, Garrisons at the Upper Station, List of Scouts


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